• Andreas Ulvo
  • Frida Ånnevik and In the Country

In this week’s paper I have a preview running for the Norwegian instrumental trio Ballrogg, who perform Saturday evening at Constellation. The bassist and structural anchor in that group is Roger Arntzen, a musician who’s probably better known for serving the same role in the lyric piano trio called In the Country, who are a group that come out of jazz, more or less, but deliver indelible, aching melodies with pop-like concision. In fact, the music written by In the Country’s elegant pianist Morten Qvenild has often seemed like it was waiting for a strong singer to step in—occasionally members of the group have taken their place at the mike, but none of them have much personality in that department (though the veteran Swedish pop-rock singer Stefan Sundström made a cameo on the group’s 2007 album Losing Stones, Collection Bones [Rune Grammofon]).

On the gorgeous new album Skogenes Sang (Grappa) the trio have delivered on that potential in a collaboration with Norwegian singer Frida Ånnevik—a new name to me, but on the basis of this effort a striking talent. The project sets the poetry of Hans Børli, who spent his life working as a lumberjack, to original melodies by Qvenild—mostly ballads marked by a dramatic sense of grandeur and a steady air of sensual languor. On four of the seven tracks the British pedal steel guitarist BJ Cole adds characteristically liquid lines that occasionally give the music an appealing country twang, but for the most part it’s just Qvenild, Arntzen, and drummer Pål Hausken who shape the shimmery, glowing arrangements. Ånnevik is a true marvel here, singing the melodies with a stunning clarity, economic phrasing, and a lovely tone. There’s a slight huskiness and aspirated quality to her precise delivery that tempers the sweetness of the melodies. Today’s 12 O’Clock Track is “Perspektiv,” a nicely representative selection from the album.